Located in Santa Rosa Beach, Down Island is a new culinary addition to the neighborhood. Yet, new as it may be, this seafood restaurant is already making quite the name for itself for its tasty oysters and homemade blueberry pie.
You will find the Down Island seafood restaurant located right on Scenic Highway 30A, one block east of its intersection with N. County Highway 393. It would be pretty hard to miss this restaurant, however, due to it having a large highway-size billboard blazoned with its name right in its front yard! But don’t let the massive billboard give you an impression that this is a tacky joint, as it truly is anything but.
The building Down Island sits in was most recently an art studio, home to Dave’s Glas Haus — a legendary spot best renowned for the artist’s beautiful handcrafted mirrors, stained-glass windows, and other pieces of glasswork. The interior still feels much like an art studio with massive window-lined walls and rustic hardwood flooring. A long 1900s-era tobacco barn-wood bar stretches across one end of the dining room and wooden-topped tables can be found both inside and out. Overall, the feel is modern, with an upscale-beachy vibe. Behind the bar and where two walls meet, a massive wood-fired oven sits where many of the restaurant’s premier entrées are grilled.
As with many Scenic Highway 30A businesses, Down Island prides itself on supporting the local community. Much of the seafood that features so prominently on the menu is locally caught or otherwise locally sourced. Much of the produce that comes as sides and garnishes are likewise local, most from Mac Farms, a company dedicated to sustainable agriculture. Finally, all of the chicken items on the menu are sourced from King’s Table Farms, another outstanding Florida Panhandle agriculture business.
Other nice attractions of the Down Island seafood restaurant include lawn games available for guests waiting for a table and an outdoor daiquiri bar open to everyone. They are currently only open for dinner hours, although the owners have indicated they hope to expand hours within the year. All seats are given as first-come, first-serve with absolutely no reservations or call-ahead options available.
There are a couple of other things one should consider before planning to eat at this restaurant. First, prices are on the higher end and reflective of all the locally sourced ingredients that go into each meal as well as the restaurant’s prominent location on Scenic Highway 30A. Second, just about all the menu items here are going to come with a smoked taste, even if they aren’t made by smoking. For example, the BBQ Shrimp entree is delicious but comes boasting a slightly smoky taste due to the restaurant’s use of cold-smoked butter in preparation. If you don’t like smoked flavoring, then this is a restaurant you will probably want to pass on.
Popular menu items at Down Island include:
Wood-Fired Oysters Topped With Creamed Leek, Shrimp, Pork Belly
The Wood-Fired Oysters menu item can be ordered several ways, but the leek, shrimp, and pork belly options have quickly become the crowd favorite. It’s savory, filling, and features some of the best ingredients the restaurant has on hand.
Smoke-Braised Pork Short Ribs
Down Island excels at seafood, but its other large plates deserve recognition. This menu item comes with creamy polenta, barbecue demi-glace, and a thick slice of brie cheese.
If anyone in your group has a sweet tooth, this wood-fired dessert is not to be missed! This homemade pie comes topped with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce and is large enough to share amongst four.
Down Island offers one of the most giving discounts for service members. All service members receive a standard 15% off their order while those who dine whilst in uniform receive a remarkable 50% off.